5 Ways to Keep Pets From Wreaking Havoc on Your Spring Garden

posted: by: Arden Moore/Vetstreet Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

In the quest to create a beautiful flowerbed or a delicious vegetable garden, there are some pesky critters whom pet-loving gardeners need to contend with: dogs with a penchant for digging and cats who like to relieve themselves on your fresh topsoil.

Luckily, help is here.

Vetstreet asked master gardener Judy Macomber, who has conducted pet-themed gardening classes in southern California for nearly two decades, to share some solutions for five common scenarios.

“I’m living proof that you can have happy dogs and keep them out of mischief in your landscaped backyard,” says Macomber, who has two breeds with garden-wrecking reputations, a Dachshund named Barkley and a Jack Russell Terrier who goes by Jack. “And you can keep stray cats at bay.”

Once you've made sure the plants and fertilizer in your garden are not dangerous to pets (start by checking out the list of safe and toxic plants on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website), it's time to focus on how to keep animals from causing trouble in your garden.

The Digger

Dogs don’t have thumbs, let alone green thumbs, but far too many of them will gladly jump in to assist gardening owners.

“Some dogs, like Labrador Retrievers and Jack Russell Terriers, are born to dig," says Macomber. "So they're happy to help you churn up the dirt in your freshly planted garden.”

Expert Solution: Nip that “doggy see, doggy want to do” desire in the bud by keeping your dog indoors when you garden, or have someone take your dog on a long, energetic walk.

You can also compromise by creating a dog-welcome zone in your yard by either sectioning off a grassy area and filling it with your dog's favorite toys or pulling out a kiddie pool (just make sure that you are always close by to supervise). The idea is to give your pup something to focus on other than your tomato garden.

The Fence Racer

Resist planting a garden or keeping a luscious lawn along your fence line. Turf-protective dogs tend to run up and down fences to bark at other dogs, cats and people — trampling blooms and grass in the process.

Expert Solution: To keep a fence line from turning into a canine raceway, plant a hedge along its perimeter, grow pink jasmine on a chain-link fence, or break up your pup's race path with decorative rocks and potted plants in large containers.

“I’ve had my vines up for ages," says Macomber, "and I've found that pink jasmine grows wonderfully and smells great.”

The Stray Cat Soiler

No one likes finding feline “fertilizer” in a vegetable garden. The reality is that freshly tilled topsoil is the perfect bathroom spot for stray cats because they can easily paw the soil and cover their deposits.

Expert Solution: Consider installing piping called Coyote Rollers along the top of your fence. The pipe rotates, making it difficult for cats, coyotes and other critters to gain a foothold in order to pull themselves up and over your fence. You can also install garden-specific Cat Scat Mats, which make it extremely hard for four-legged trespassers to walk on your garden.

Macomber offers two more homemade tactics: “Position bricks at each corner of your garden, and then place an old screen door on top. As your plants grow, keep adding bricks. Basically, cats don’t like to walk on screens. You can also sprinkle orange and lemon peels on the garden — cats hate the smell of citrus.”

The Shade-Seeking Lounger

During warm weather, dogs seek cool places — like that freshly planted garden with its moist topsoil.

Expert Solution: Plant raised garden beds and install a decorated, interlocking fence around the perimeter of the garden to make it less welcoming to your dog.

You can also treat your pup to his own made-in the-shade spot by taking an old picnic table and sawing the legs in half. “Your dog has the option of lounging under the table for shade, or sitting on top of it for sunbathing,” says Macomber.

The Garden Nibbler

Despite their meat-eating reputations, some dogs and cats enjoy noshing on grass and other green plants.

Expert Solution: Hoist delicate plants in hanging pots, so they're out of paws' reach. And designate a small section of your garden for growing pet-friendly greens. “Alfalfa, barley and wheatgrass are excellent grasses for your pet," says Macomber. "And don’t forget to plant catnip for your cat.”